Former All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Cruden bound for Steelers

Cruden and Smith to join Kobe Steelers

Ben Smith and Aaron Cruden to join Japan's Kobe Steelers

Former All Blacks Ben Smith and Aaron Cruden will join the Kobe Kobelco Steelers in the Japan Rugby Top League next season, the club announced Friday.

Japan's well-heeled Top League, where teams are backed by major corporations, has been cancelled for 2020 because of the pandemic, with the new arrivals set to debut next year.

Still, the Steelers said in a press release that Cruden, 31, and Smith, 34, would be new players in the squad for their next campaign.

Smith, meanwhile, was last contracted to Top 14 club Pau in France, where he made just seven appearances before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2019-20 season.

Smith, who boasts 84 caps for New Zealand, was a member of two consecutive World Cup sides, winning the Webb Ellis trophy in 2015 in England and finishing third at last year's tournament in Japan.

Former Highlanders stars Tom Franklin, Hayden Parker and Richard Buckman are also at the club, as is ex-Chiefs duo Matt vant Leven and Sefo Kautai.

Cruden, who is now on a second stint with Chiefs is set to make his 100th appearance for the club this weekend and has experience of playing for Hurricanes and Montpellier. I will do my best to further shine the brilliant history of Kobelco Steelers.

They join a host of top worldwide players who'll feature in the Top League rugby competition next season, which is headlined by New Zealand's Beauden Barrett.

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